Are you looking for the best platforms for creating & selling online courses?
It’s no secret that the e-learning industry is booming. Online courses are a great way to monetize your audience and help people benefit from your knowledge.
But which online course platform should you choose?
In this post, we’re reviewing our favorite online course platforms so you can make an informed decision.
Let’s get started:
The best platforms for creating and selling online courses
Thinkific – The best dedicated online course platform. Includes a free plan and no transaction fees on paid plans.Podia – Lacks some critical features for courses but you can sell digital downloads + memberships.LearnWorlds – Powerful course platform but takes $5 per course sale on basic plan. Geared more towards in-company training and academia.LearnDash – The best learning management software available for WordPress. More technical hurdles involved but you keep more of your profit.Teachable – Popular course platform but paid plans still include transaction fees and design functionality is lacking.Kajabi – Great platform that can power your entire business but it may be overkill for some users, especially for the added price.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these platforms:
Thinkific is a powerful all-in-one course software solution that makes it easy to create and sell courses on your own course website. It’s a robust platform that scales well as you grow and is capable of supporting millions of students.
The designers at Thinkific clearly know what they’re doing, all the templates look great and are designed specifically to sell education. They’re also highly customizable. The drag and drop editor is super intuitive and makes setting everything up a cinch. You can also easily drop code into your Thinkific website using widget tools.
can include multiple file types, like quizzes, surveys, PDFs, audio files,
text, video and more, and you can easily import all of your content files in
bulk through the content importer.
It has all the
e-commerce features you’d expect, including a great marketing stack, lots of
payment options, and robust student tracking tools.
well with other marketing and sales tools like Mailchimp, Segment.io, and
And best of all,
Thinkific doesn’t charge transaction fees even on their free plan. The only
transaction fees you have to worry about are those charged by your payment
processor (like PayPal).
They offer four
pricing packages, starting at $0/month for the Free Plan and going up to $499
per month for the Premier Plan. The higher-priced plans offer more advanced
features, more admin accounts, and more course admins.
If you’re just
starting out, the Basic Plan should be sufficient, and you can scale up to the
more expensive plans as you grow your business.
Free Plan – $0/monthBasic Plan – $49/monthPro + Growth Plan – $99/monthPremier Plan – $399/month
Podia is an incredible standalone course creation platform that can be used to build your entire storefront. It allows you to create all the educational content you could possibly need. You can build multiple online courses, create digital downloads, set up separate membership sites, and host them all in one place.
look great, convert well, and are easily customizable. Landing pages typically
include an overview of the course, information about what’s included, a content
section, creator bio, and FAQs.
You can use Podia
to set up a separate landing page for each of your courses, digital downloads,
or membership options. This is great as having multiple dedicated landing pages
is proven to increase conversions.
When you’ve finished creating your online course, you can either choose to publish it straight away or pre-launch it to try to bag yourself some pre-orders. Podia can help with the pre-launch by allowing you to set up lead nurturing campaigns and teaser content.
email marketing tools are pretty great too. You can send newsletters, set up
drip campaigns, and grow your list. You can segment your list based on which
courses they’re enrolled in and access a wealth of data about how your emails
are performing, like open rates and click rates.
In addition to
your course, you can sell digital downloads – like ebooks, audio files, cheat
sheets, and assessments – separately as digital downloads. You can also set up
your own private membership site to build and connect with your community and
sell access through various membership plans.
A final feature
worth mentioning is the Live Chat. Podia is one of the only platforms with a
seamlessly integrated Live Chat feature that can help you to maximize your lead
Mover plan $39/month. No transaction fees.Shaker plan $79/month. No transaction fees.
Last but not least, we have LearnWorlds.
LearnWorlds is a
premium platform for creating and selling online courses geared towards
in-company training. Like most of the software solutions we’ve looked at, they
offer integrated marketing tools, analytics, sales pages, and customizable
One thing I love
about LearnWorlds is the level of interactivity in their pre-made course
catalogs. Templates often include interactive video, interactive e-books,
downloadable attachments, online tests, and other interactive elements that
make your course more engaging for your students.
video tool allows you to easily sync up your transcripts, add hotspots that
your students can click for more information, and more.
The course player is simple, flexible, and powerful. It uses flexible pathways and can drip feed your courses to your students via scheduled delivery. You can also set it up to allow students to navigate freely or sequentially through the course chapters. Students can also highlight text and add their own notes as they read through it.
Starter $24/month billed annuallyPro Trainer $79/month billed annuallyLearning Center $249/month billed annually
Unlike the other platforms we’ve looked at so far, LearnDash doesn’t help you to build your own course website from scratch. Rather, it’s a WordPress LMS plugin that integrates with your existing WordPress website.
Once you’ve added
the LearnDash plugin, you can easily set up and start selling courses directly
through your WordPress dashboard. You can deliver quizzes, give out student certificates,
manage student enrollment, view reports, and everything else you’d need to run
your e-learning business.
It’s a great
choice for university, training organizations, and entrepreneurs that already
have an existing web presence.
It has many of the features we’ve already talked about, as well as some unique advanced features that make it stand out from the crowd. One of these features is the LearnDash ‘Focus Mode’, which can be activated to remove all unnecessary page elements (like navigation bars and footer elements) in order to eliminate distractions for your students.
You can also use
LearnDash to set up drip courses and use the Gradebook technology to give your
students a grade based on their performance in quizzes and homework. You can
award your students certificates, badges, and course points according to their
grades and the activities they complete.
Basic Package from $159 (1 site
license)Plus Package from $189 (10 site
licenses)Pro Package from $329 (25 site
Next up, we have Teachable, another excellent platform for creating and selling online courses. Teachable lets you create fully-responsive educational content, courses, graded quizzes, and landing pages that look great on all devices.
There’s a lot to
love about Teachable but one of my favorite features is the custom completion
certificates. You can create your own certificates to give out to your students
upon the completion of your course. This helps to legitimize your course and
provides a better experience for your customers.
You can also
leverage the course compliance tools to enforce lecture completion and set
mandatory pre-requisites for your students to enroll or progress through your
course, such as minimum quiz scores.
It comes with
lots of built-in marketing tools. You can use them to build your email list and
set up segmented campaigns, create and roll out coupons and promotional offers,
set up multiple advanced pricing options, customize sales pages, and even set
up your own affiliate program.
The templates are
easy to use and neatly designed, but there are also some advanced customization
options if you want to tinker with them. You can change the design or go into
the Power Editor to edit your website code for more advanced edits.
Teachable also integrates with support tools like Zendesk, Intercom, and Olark and comes with a free yourschool.teachable.com domain name. If you’d prefer to use your own, you can connect Teachable to your own domain name or a subdomain.
Note: Teachable used to offer a free plan but it’s no longer available.
Basic plan starts at $29/month (5% transaction fees)Professional plan starts at $79/month (zero transaction fees)
Kajabi is an all-in-one business solution that lets you manage everything you need to run your online education business in one place.
You can use it to
build your website, create and manage your courses, view analytics, run email
marketing campaigns, communicate with your customers, and process payments from
one single dashboard. You can even create blog posts to reach more customers
through SEO and content marketing.
What makes Kajabi
stand out from the crowd is its marketing automation tools and Pipelines
feature, both of which are excellent. You can use Pipelines to connect your
landing pages together with your checkout pages seamlessly to reduce the number
of steps your customers have to take to close the sale and maximize conversion
You can set up
automation to trigger specific mailing events when your customers take certain
actions, such as completing assessments or canceling subscriptions.
Basic plan starts at $110/monthGrowth plan starts at $159/monthPro plan starts at $319/month
Online course platforms: frequently asked questions
What is an online course platform?
An online course
platform is a tool that helps you to put together your course, host it, launch
it, and market it to your customers. They provide a neat framework that
simplifies these processes so that you don’t have to start from scratch and can
devote more attention to the actual content of your courses, rather than the
There are lots of
different kinds of online course platforms on the market, and each of them
offers something a little different.
For example, some
all-in-one platforms might help you to build your entire website, complete with
your course sales and landing pages, from scratch, whereas others might
integrate with your existing website.
Others still will
allow you to build and host your course on their website as part of a catalog
of courses, rather than on your own website. These ‘e-learning marketplaces’
include sites like Skillshare and Udemy.
The advantage of
course marketplaces is that they give you access to a huge existing pool of potential
students, but the trade-off is that they offer less flexibility and usually
take a cut of your sales. We won’t be covering marketplaces here; we’ll be
focusing exclusively on course creation software solutions that give you more
control over your course.
important to distinguish online course platforms from learning management
systems (LMS). LMS are less suitable for edupreneurs and small businesses like
us that are trying to sell courses. They’re geared more towards in-company
training and for use in schools.
What should I look for in an online course platform?
Now that we’re
clear on exactly what online course platforms are, let’s talk about how to
choose one. There are dozens of options, so how do you work out which is best
for your needs and goals?
Well, here are a
few things to think about.
Almost all course
creation platforms will offer templates to help you to put your e-learning
course and sales pages together. These usually offer at least some level of
customization, but some will give you more control than others. Consider the
customization options available and make sure it’s sufficient for your needs.
tools and features
Marketing is a
huge part of setting up a profitable online course business. It’s no good creating
awesome educational content if nobody ever sees it.
As such, make sure you look at the marketing tools and features on offer. Some platforms can help you to set up sales funnels, collect email addresses, launch email marketing campaigns, and more. These kinds of features will help you to reach more customers.
How do you plan on pricing your online course? If you plan on offering various payment plans, you’ll want to choose a platform that can set that up.
Some platforms offer more advanced payment tools that give you more flexibility in how you price your course. You might be able to set up recurring subscriptions, one-time fees, payment plans, and coupons.
The best online
courses are interactive so try to choose a platform that allows you to build a
good level of interactivity into your courses.
For example, if
you want to be able to interact with your students directly, you might want to
look for a platform that allows live streaming, or lets you set up forums where
you can answer student questions.
be built into the content itself too through interactive elements like quizzes
and surveys. Think about the interactive tools you might want to use in your
course and look for a platform that can deliver this.
Think about what
kind of content you plan on using in your e-learning course. Do you plan on
creating a video course? Will you want to include assessments? Do you plan on
incorporating PDFs, ebooks, or images? Make sure you choose a tool that
supports all the different media types you plan on using.
If you’ve already
built up a solid web presence, you might want to host your course on your
existing website, rather than build a brand new one. If so, look for a course
creation tool that integrates with WordPress or your CMS.
for creating and selling online courses will set up a website and landing page
for you and take care of pretty much everything, from web hosting and domain
names to site security and backups.
Some platforms offer more advanced features that can take your course to the next level. I’m talking about things like multiple teacher classrooms, advanced sales funnels, email automation, robust analytics, and live lessons. Think about what advanced features you might be interested in and factor that into your decision.
And finally, think about pricing. Different course creation platforms offer different pricing structures. Most will charge a fixed monthly fee but others might charge a one-off transaction fee or take a cut of your course sales.
Others such as Thinkific offer a free plan with a transaction fee. This would allow you to create your course without spending any money. Then you can upgrade to a paid plan once you’re ready to launch or you’re making a profit.
Think about this when comparing your options and set yourself a budget.
this guide to the 6 best platforms for creating and selling online courses.
Hopefully, you find the right platform for your needs.
If none of these course selling platforms seem like a good fit, check out our guide to the best ecommerce platforms for digital products – you might find something more suitable there. You can also check out our guide to landing page SEO to help you to get more traffic to your course landing pages.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means we may make a small commission if you make a purchase.